As a finale, The Crown 5×10 “Decommissioned” tries to do a lot of things in a short amount of time. The 1990s were a chaotic time for the British royal family. The final two episodes effectively grind everything to a halt. Of course, everyone knows the tragedy that is coming. In many ways, this feels like the calm before the storm. Nothing is very calm, however. Instead, there’s a sense of dread that permeates every moment of the season finale.
For starters, it’s a strange choice to show the yacht storyline coming full circle in this way. This could have been an effective device to continually illustrate just how out of touch the character Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) is. Let’s also remember, though, Elizabeth II was a real person. It always feels more than a little uncomfortable to compare a human being with an inanimate object, no matter how apt the comparison may be.
The finale is perhaps a surprising venue for Elizabeth Debicki to showcase her comedic talents. In particular, the scene featuring Diana watching a TV special where Britons vote by phone about their opinion of the monarchy is hilarious. Debicki’s unhinged energy shows a Diana who has literally nothing left to lose. Her life as she’s known it has blown up in her face. This is arguably an incredibly dangerous place to be. It puts the character in an even more vulnerable position than where she was when we first met her.
Speaking of Diana, the Fayeds are back, and…there’s still not much of them. We definitely get to see more of Mohamed (Salim Daw) as a really gross scumbag. However, that’s basically all there is to this character at this point. It’s unclear if the show wants to make him as unlikeable and untrustworthy as possible to make us discredit anything else we see from him. To be clear, there’s plenty to detest about the real man on whom this character is based. Time will tell if this is an effective strategy when providing further historical commentary.
While Diana is portrayed as someone who has everything to lose, Dodi is shown as someone who really has everything to gain. The world is at his fingertips. Sure, he has a horrifically terrible father. We’ve all been there (kind of). In reality, though, this is a man whose life is just beginning. He has access to a ludicrous amount of wealth, beautiful women, and soon, obviously, a former senior member of the British royal family. Fayed’s story at the end of this season is a sobering reminder that life is so incredibly fragile, all we are promised is the current moment. This is a profound point to be made by a show that shows the circus which is the British royal family.
Switching gears to people that were actually elected, Bertie Carvel’s version of Tony Blair frankly doesn’t work. There’s a stunning lack of charisma for a man that swept up a nation in a vision of “New Labour”. Obviously, we just met this character, and there’s still a chance for the show to get it right. There’s just a lingering sense that Michael Sheen will always be the fake Tony Blair, and no one else could possibly do it better.
The Crown 5×10 “Decommissioned” is a mixed bag as a season finale. What makes it difficult to watch is knowing where these characters will eventually end up. This was always going to be a challenge as the show began portraying more recent events. This season has managed the task with varying levels of success. The finale represents the best and worst of what this season has been. There are important lessons the show can learn as it prepares for its final season. No one wants a propaganda piece about why we really need a monarchy, even though everyone in it is mostly terrible. Instead, the show may benefit from pulling back its focus, and showing the indescribable destruction that this family and institution is still responsible for to this day. That would be an unmatched legacy for the series to leave.
The Crown Season 5 is available to stream on Netflix.